As a system, OSR+ is agnostic with respect to whether it's played remotely or in person, however 99% of our playtesting was carried out remotely. Nowadays it's extremely easy to run a remote game, and we find that playing remotely can be just as immersive as playing in person, given the right tools.
The most important tool for remote play is what software you use to conference the table. There is a plethora of software in the wild that combines video conferencing with virtual tabletops so that all you need is a single interface to play. Here are a few of our favorites:
The most stable, high-quality video conferencing tool out there is still, of course, the corporate beast we all became intimately familiar with during the pandemic. You'll need to pay for Zoom for multi-hour sessions with a full table.
The video conferencing component of Discord has subpar quality (and there's a learning curve to understand how to use Discord), but the platform is free, and lets you create chatrooms on steroids devoted to a single digital community.
This one is ideal for recording sessions due to the depth of features it offers. VDO Ninja creates a peer-to-peer connection between guests within the browser, which results in crystal clear quality that rivals Zoom. Unfortunately, VDO Ninja has a janky interface that needs a lot of UX love, as it was developed by a single developer, and is entirely free to use.
Virtual tabletops often combine video conferencing with specialized tools designed for remote play (such as screen sharing, the ability to manipulate tokens on a map, and character sheet management) in the web browser. These all-in-one platforms are usually system-agnostic, so that you can plug and play whatever rules you need into the software.
Be mindful that the more visual elements you offload into the VTT, the more you diminish the theater-of-mind experience OSR+ was designed for. While a well-groomed VTT will become a time-saver over the long run, the use of a VTT will increase session prep at the outset, since you'll need to prep the VTT for your prep.
This platform runs as software-as-a-service in the browser, providing a modern interface with video conferencing capabilities. Role is more focused on providing an interface for players to play remotely (with some shared mapping features and a system-agnostic, customizable character sheet). Think Owlbear Rodeo + video conferencing. It's free, though specific asset sets (such as rules or character sheets) have a one-time fee to import into the platform.
A self-hosted platform where the GM installs software locally and then runs a game server of their own to connect players for free through a web browser, with video conferencing capabilities. It's perhaps the most customizable VTT out there with everything under the kitchen sink, provided you're willing to put in the time to configure it and wade through a sea of extensions. FoundryVTT requires a one-time fee from the GM for a perpetual license.
This VTT is software-as-a-service like Role, and runs in the browser. Similar to FoundryVTT, Roll20 is an all-in-one with (limited) video conferencing capabilities. Roll20 excels in having a wide breadth of content available for GMs to make use of in the VTT and requires a subscription for more advanced features and storage.
Similar to Roll20, but FantasyGrounds runs as software locally on each person's machine, and requires the GM to be online with the software in order for everyone to play. This means it may not be usable on a lot of different kinds of devices. It does not include video conferencing capabilities and does not have a free subscription, but offers a one-time fee vs. monthly pricing.
A very lightweight browser-based mapping VTT that also has a shared dice-roller built in. Owlbear Rodeo doesn't have any of the bells and whistles of the above fully-featured VTTs (or video conferencing capability), but its simplicity is a virtue because you can upload a map and drop tokens in a matter of minutes. Also, it's entirely free, and the premium features aren't required to run a game.
3D & VR Apps
The advent of consumer-accessible VR technology (see the Quest 2) has created a real possibility of playing RPGs in VR. The landscape is still very experimental, and there's a big barrier to entry: everyone needs a VR headset, or at least a PC capable of running 3D games in order to participate. 3D and VR-capable 3D VTTs also require software to run, which means it's not as simple as sharing links in a browser.
Like VTTs, the use of 3D tools to mediate the conversation will diminish the theater-of-mind experience that OSR+ was designed for. They also require a great deal more session prep (on the technical side) than their 2D VTT counterparts. Your mileage may vary:
- Tabletop Simulator (VR-Capable)
- Tavern Tales (VR-Capable)
- Tabletop Playground (VR-Capable)
- Game Master Engine
- The RPG Engine
Discord remains our #1 recommendation for building a persistent, online community around your game. The free service lets you manage a private chatroom broken down into customizable channels and threads. You can also create forums (akin to the kind you'd find on traditional message boards) and extend the platform's capabilities through a public library of bots that enable assistive tools like dice rolling and playing music, all within the platform. Because Discord also seamlessly integrates voice chat and video conferencing, it's a one-stop-shop for remote social interaction.
The downside of Discord is that it's not open source, and everything you create within the platform is stored on the company's private servers.
Unfortunately, as of the date of this writing (early 2022), there is no singular open source solution that offers all of Discord's features. The technically savvy might consider a self-hosted alternative like Matrix (with the Element web client) that allows you to self-host your own community on servers you control.